I’ve seen Francis Poulenc’s monodrama La voix humaine many times and always find it troubling despite that the fact that it is often a vehicle for rather good performances. I was intrigued then by VOICEBOX’ decision to present alongside the Jean Cocteau play on which the opera is based. It really helped me get to grips with what I find uncomfortable about the work.
Back in 2018 I wrote about the Yiddish Glory project including a concert at Koerner Hall and a CD. Well, Anna Shternshis and her team are back with more music from the ghettos, in particular Pechora Camp in Transnistria. This time it’s themed around the typhus epidemic of 1941/2 and the impact it had on the camp’s inmates. The music and accompanying narrative feature in a short but interesting Youtube video. There’s dark humour here especially in the song I’m a Typhus Louse which personifies the disease in a way that’s curiously similar to Spitting Image‘s portrayal of COVID. Like most Holocaust related material it’s not easy to watch but it’s a compelling story with interesting music which is beautifully and wittily performed. The filming is rather good too and the technical quality is excellent. All the performers are fully credited on the video so I’ll not duplicate that information here.
Ontario’s state of emergency seems to have slowed the production of on-line content to a trickle. The only new things I’ve seen recently are from the ever reliable Opera Revue and Alexander Hajek.
Opera Revue’s eighth isolation production features five pieces from Frank Horvat’s Music for Self Isolation; a set of thirty one short pieces for one or two musicians written last spring. The concert features the five pieces with a vocal part. I have to say I liked the texts; taken from various sources, more than the music. The music is sort of “singer sonwriterish”; simple, tonal, melodic, a bit repetitive. It’s fine of its type but it’s not my bag. Performances by various combos of sopranos Emily Ding and Dani Friesen, pianist Claire Harris and guitarist Michael McKenzie are very nice though and the recording; despite being done via Zoom, is perfectly acceptable. The music may not be entirely my thing but I’m delighted that someone is doing projects like this. You can find it on Opera Revue’s channel on Youtube.
Alex Hajek’s contribution is another intriguing Toronto based film this time featuring Der Doppelgänger from Scubert’s Schwanengesang. It’s beautiful to look at and beautiful to listen to and, again, featurers Claire Harris on piano as well as Alex’ lovely baritone. This one’s on Youtube too. The channel is Alexander Hajek.
Mandala – the Beauty of Impermanence is the latest on-line offering from Confluence Concerts. It’s curated by Suba Sankaran and should have seen the light as a live show last May. The programme is as eclectic as one has come to expect from Confluence and lots of fun. In the spirit of impermanence it will be available on the Confluence channel on Youtube only until February 10th.
There was a really interesting announcement from the COC earlier today. To cut a long story short it announced that the four principals of Amplified Opera; Teiya Kasahara, Marion Newman, Asitha Tennekoon and Aria Umezawa, would become “Disruptors in Residence”. I think this is a very positive move. Many of us have been following the various conversations about evolving opera beyond being the preserve of (almost) dead white people to being an art form that more fully reflects the diversity of our communities. I have to admit to being somewhat sceptical about how much of the energy and goodwill that has been generated will survive the return to some sort of post-covid normality. It.’s surprisingly hard to make change in large, hierarchical organisations go viral.
I’m rather suffering from “stream fatigue” right now but once in a while something really worth watching shows up. I’d put Royal Swedish Opera’s recent performance of Kaija Saariaho’s oratorio La passion de Simone in that category. It’s a 2006 work with a French libretto by Amin Maalouf dealing with the life and thought of philosopher, social activist and mystic Simone Weil.
Once in a while an opera video comes my way that’s so bonkers that I hardly know how to describe it. Emma Dante’s production of Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel; recorded at Teatro dell’opera di Roma in 2019 would be a candidate for the most bonkers of all!
The Dominion Foundry complex is a group of heritage buildings just to the north of Canary Village. They aren’t the prettiest buildings in Toronto but they are pretty much the last surviving remnant of the West Don Lands industrial heritage. There’s a study under way to assess the feasibility of turning them into an arts and community complex which is something the east end needs. More details on that proposal here. Today I learned that the province is planning on razing the whole complex without any kind of community consultation or input.
The latest set of “guidelines” from the Government of Ontario will no doubt be interpreted in various ways but one thing is clear they are affecting some organisations production schedules and there have been cancellations and postponements notably from the Royal Conservatory and Tapestry Opera. Frankly the situation is too muddy and too fluid for me to bother with updates to schedules right now. All I can suggest is that if you are planning to watch any Toronto produced streams keep checking the company websites for news on what is and isn’t happening.
Presto Classical lists over 100 recordings of Schubert’s Winterreise for (almost) every voice type accompanied on pianoforte, fortepiano, string quartet and probably more. It’s also frequently performed live and I’ve certainly seen it done multiple times in settings ranging from the most formal of Liederabend to staged with projections and all manner of things. So why bother with another new recording? Well it’s largely because I’m a fan of English baritone Roderick Williams who has just had a Winterreise recording, with Iain Burnside at the piano, released on the Chandos label.